As Georgia colleges prepare for a return to in-person classes next month, a variety of protocols and rules are being put in place to help keep administrators and students safe. Some schools are requiring students and faculty to be vaccinated for the fall semester, while others are asking that those that are unvaccinated wear masks when in contact with others.
Students at Mercer University won’t be required to get the vaccine to attend classes when they resume Aug. 24, but the school is encouraging those not vaccinated to wear masks. That’s in contrast with Emory University, which is requiring students to be vaccinated to attend classes when they resume Aug. 25.
Most of Georgia’s public schools are taking similar precautions and policies, with Georgia State University, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech encouraging unvaccinated students to wear masks, but not requiring students to be vaccinated before attending classes. UGA students return Aug. 18 and Georgia Tech and Georgia State students, Aug. 23.
Meanwhile, state guidelines from the University System of Georgia hold the same line, promoting masks for unvaccinated students while pushing students to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet.
USG’s guidance is: “Fully vaccinated individuals can resume campus classes and other activities without wearing a mask. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to continue wearing a face covering while inside campus facilities.”
USG is encouraging schools to “return to normal” as vaccines have become easily accessible for students and faculty, and the pandemic has begun to recede. The emerging delta variant along with low vaccination rates in Georgia compared to the rest of the country, may present challenges to university administrators this fall as almost all students return to normal in-person classes for the first time since the pandemic began, USG stated online.
The vast majority of Georgia colleges and universities had returned fully in-person during the spring semester, but some schools continued a portion of their courses online to space out students in closed spaces. Most colleges and universities will be maintaining the safety equipment they put in place during the pandemic, from plexiglass shields to on-campus testing facilities with continued testing for COVID-19, considering that some students remain unvaccinated.